When you volunteer, what are the main purposes behind your volunteering? How altruistic are we really? Most of us have multiple layers of interest when we travel and volunteer. Are these agendas or just interests?
My partner who has served for 7 years internationally forwarded me a well written article challenging volunteers with several questions that are worth thinking about.
Questions such as:
Would you volunteer if you had no camera with you?
Does the agency you are working with have the same intentions and values that you have?
Are you doing more harm than good?
Would you trust yourself enough to do this job in your own country?
I would encourage to read this article online (click here)
When I served in Ecuador, one book that we studied with others serving there was the classic book by Steve Corbett, "When Helping Hurts" which explores the broader needs beyond financial needs in developing world settings. While it deals with poverty specifically, many of the concepts are transferable to serving for medical needs such as restoring vision through cataract surgery. I would encourage everyone to read this book.
Another book that I have not read but believe worth reading is a second book by Steve Corbett called, "Helping Without Hurting in Short Term Missions
Consider purchasing this book for during your next mission or even studying it at home with friends and colleagues. If you have read this book already, please share your comments and your take away points for what you've learned. For me, I recognize that as a volunteer, we often have blinders on as we view another culture. I desire to see beyond my blinders and learn the other rich perspectives that are present in any situation.
As we continue to serve and volunteer around the world, my prayer is that we are not hurting the very cultures that we are working hard to help.